Egypt has been withholding the bodies of several prisoners after their execution, preventing their families from burying them, according to Ahmed El-Attar of Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms.
New statistics indicate that despite the Egyptian authorities regularly announcing the numbers of those who have been executed or have otherwise died in prison, the corpses are often not handed back to their families to facilitate appropriate burials. ECRF has named three prisoners — Ibrahim Khader, Ahmed Yusri and Ibrahim Abu Sulaiman — who have died in the past three months, but whose bodies have not been handed over to their families.
According to the organisation, there are frequent complaints about the Zainhom Mortuary in Cairo in particular; prisoners are often buried in charitable graves, reserved for those who had no relatives to identify them. Families are only informed of their death after their burial. This has prompted speculation about whether the Egyptian authorities are attempting to conceal the circumstances in which prisoners have died.
Heightened attention has been placed on Egypt and the deaths of prisoners in recent weeks, following the execution of nine men accused of plotting the assassination of the attorney general in 2015. Videos of the defendants declaring that they had been forced to confess under torture have also surfaced, drawing international condemnation.
Egypt executed six other men in two separate cases last month that were denounced by rights groups as unjust. Some 1,400 people have been sentenced to death since 2013, convicted mostly of incidents of politically-motivated violence.
Since becoming President of the Republic following a military coup in 2013, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron fist. The government has launched a crackdown on anyone suspected of opposing Al-Sisi. President Mohamad Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader, remains imprisoned and facing a retrial having been sentenced to death.
Torture and extrajudicial killings are also common in Egypt, with prisoners relating how officers threatened to rape their wives and sisters if they did not confess to committing the crimes of which they were accused.
Amnesty International has described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any dissent and create an atmosphere of fear.